Dr. Mom may have been right: The simple home remedy of gargling with saltwater could help fight infection.
Researchers found that patients with COVID-19 who gargled with saltwater and did nasal rinses had lower hospitalization rates compared to those who did not use the home remedy.
They presented the findings this week at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting in Anaheim, California.
“Saltwater gargling and nasal rinsing are cheap and widely available interventions that may reduce hospital admission among patients diagnosed with COVID-19,” co-author Jimmy Espinoza, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, told Fox News Digital.
These remedies are not intended to replace conventional treatments, such as antiviral medications and monoclonal antibodies, he added.
In light of the new findings, medical experts are sharing their thoughts on some of the common home remedies used to fight COVID-19.
Rest, fluids and pain relievers
“For infected individuals who are likely to experience COVID-19 complications — those who are older than 50, unvaccinated [or have] certain medical conditions, such as a weakened immune system — supportive care is recommended,” Mark Fendrick, M.D., a general internist at the University of Michigan, told Fox News Digital in an email.
This care should include “proper fluid intake, rest and over-the-counter medications or home remedies to relieve symptoms such as fever, body aches, cough and sore throat,” added Fendrick, who has also studied the common cold.
Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce fever or muscle aches, guaifenesin can decrease thick mucus, and dextromethorphan may help calm a dry cough, Christine Giordano, M.D., a practicing board-certified internist in Philadelphia, told Fox News Digital.
“Drinking hot tea with honey can soothe a sore throat and reduce cough, and taking a hot shower or using a humidifier can help loosen chest congestion,” she added.
Even if symptoms are mild, Giordano said it’s always a good idea to talk to a health care provider.
“People with COVID-19 who are at increased risk for developing severe symptoms may benefit from treatment with an antiviral medication called Paxlovid, which is only available with a prescription,” she said.
Fruits, vegetables and exercise
A 2022 study in Ghana on home remedies noted that some participants boiled neem leaves from the Azadirachta indica tree to drink as a warm remedy, or even bathed in them to help prevent COVID-19.
The leaves’ antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help inhibit the binding of the virus in the body’s cells, the study explained.
Other participants used moringa leaves, taken in a drink or with cocoa powder and cinnamon, because they have been shown to disrupt the binding ability of the virus, the researchers added.
Experts have also pointed out the power of physical exercise, which is known to help decrease respiratory infections.
“Our evidence supports physical exercise, deliberate inclusion of fruits and vegetables in diets, and drinking of fruit juices or home-based juices as effective methods for the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the study concluded.
Some experts suggest it is the phytonutrients in vegetables and fruits that support the immune system in fighting germs.
Individuals may find that various natural remedies decrease symptoms or prevent COVID-19, but these are only anecdotal reports unique to their own circumstances, Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital on Long Island, New York, told Fox News Digital.
He cautioned that these remedies don’t replace standard of care — and that more research is needed to determine their benefit; he also recommended checking with a health care provider before starting them.
Saltwater gargles and nasal rinses
Between 2020 and 2022, researchers evaluated the severity of disease among individuals from 18 to 65 years of age who had COVID-19.
“Our study design was to randomly assign individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 infection to a low and high saltwater gargling regimen and saline nasal rinsing for 14 days,” Espinoza told Fox News Digital.
The participants in both groups gargled with saltwater and performed saline nasal rinses four times a day for two weeks.
“The most important findings of our study are that there were not differences in the duration of symptoms, hospitalization rates, use of mechanical ventilator or death among patients who used a low-regimen or high-regimen dose of saltwater gargling and nasal rising for 14 days,” Espinoza said.
“In addition to the information from these two groups, we had access to the clinical information of our reference population, which is composed of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 infection during the study period who did not use saltwater gargling or nasal rinsing.”
Using this data, the researchers then compared hospitalization rates.
Hospital admissions among those who did the saline regimens were more than twice as high as those in the low-salt or high-salt regimens, Espinoza told Fox News Digital.
The study’s main limitation was that it was not designed to compare low- or high-saltwater regimens with the population who did not use the saline regimen.
“If our observations are confirmed by additional studies, it is possible that saltwater gargling and nasal rinsing may be complementary to other conventional treatments,” Espinoza said.